Rick StiebelThe Chronicle
Vive la difference!
The numbers for French immersion are impressive and on the rise in the Nanaimo Ladysmith District.
According to statistics released last week by Canadian Parents for French B.C. & Yukon, 1,513 students in the district are enrolled in French immersion, slightly more than 11 per cent of the entire student body.
That’s above the average of 9.5 per cent for the province, which has 52,545 enrolled in the program, said Glyn Lewis, executive director for Canadian parents for French BC & YK.
This is the first year that Ladysmith Secondary School is offering a French immersion program.
Principal Margaret Olsen said “We are very excited about our program and look forward to watching it grow over the next few years.”
Mike Lundine, principal of Ecole Quarterway in Nanaimo, said the increase in numbers since French immersion was launched in the district 30 years ago reflects the program’s growing popularity. “We expect more growth, especially since we’re offering it now at the Grade 6 level as well. We have four elementary sites that offer French immersion, so it’s great to now be able to offer it at a secondary school in Ladysmith.”
That will make it much easier for students enrolled in the program at Oyster Bay Elementary School in Ladysmith to continue without having to attend Nanaimo District Secondary School, Lundine added.
Since the first French immersion class opened in St. Lambert, Quebec in 1965, more than one million students have taken part in the program.
“There’s been phenomenal growth across the province, especially in the Nanaimo Ladysmith District,” Lewis said. “We’ve seen growth for 18 consecutive years.”
Lewis believes that now that a couple of generations have taken French immersion and seen the results firsthand, more families are looking to provide that opportunity to their children.
Some of the benefits Lewis cited are statistics that show Canadians who speak both official languages make on average 10 per cent more and have a lower unemployment rate.
“It’s a huge benefit to be able to speak both official languages if you’re working in Ottawa or planning to go to school in Montreal,” he explained.
Another plus that applies to travelling is that French is recognized as one of the most popular international languages, Lewis added.